LETTER: ... Did Frank Stupnik make these snow shoes and when?

Dear Editor,
My name is Mike Gavan, I’m 39 years old and live in Midhirst in Taranaki, New Zealand, with my four children and gorgeous wife.
About two weeks ago I was visiting my wife in her second hand shop when I came across a small pair of delicately made snow shoes about 8 inches tall.
On closer examination I found the name Frank Stupnik, Ely, Minn written on the bottom side of one of the tiny snow shoes.
I couldn’t help but wonder who had made these snow shoes and how they had made their way to the other side of our planet to make it to my wife’s second hand shop.
My wife said they were a handed in donation and therefore could not be traced, so here I am, looking in the only place to look, Ely, Minnesota.


New wild rice recommendations as clear as mud

A new formula for determining how to protect wild rice may not make it off the drawing board. The MPCA hastily revealed the formula after the governor made comments that the agency was using obsolete science.
“If the standard is obsolete and it’s not validated by current science and information, then to stick with it and close down an industry isn’t really well advised,” Dayton said to MPR.
One guess what industry he’s referring to. If you guessed mining, give yourself five points. If you realize that wild rice is being used as the spotted owl in stopping mining in Minnesota, give yourself another five points. You aced the test.
The MPCA is in a lose-lose situation trying to come up with a standard that protects wild rice and doesn’t cost municipalities and mining companies billions of dollars.


Enough is enough: time to scrap building inspection, fee structure in City of Ely

Hats off to Ely council member Paul Kess for shining the light on an issue that certainly needs more scrutiny and investigation - the city of Ely’s stringent requirements and exorbitant costs for building permits and inspections.
It’s hard to conceive how Ely’s annual building inspection expense of more than $135,000 is justified - when a review by Kess released this week showed that some neighboring communities don’t spend anything close.
And in some cases, including right next door in the Town of Morse, there’s absolutely no expense at all.
Need new siding, a deck, or a water heater in Morse Township? Simply call your contractor and get the ball rolling.
But in Ely, homeowners are saddled with hefty permit fees, and at the end of the year the city government has an eye-popping, almost incomprehensible bill.
How incomprehensible? Try $35 an hour, 32 hours a week and up to an 85 percent cut on all permit fees collected.


...this standard makes no sense

Dear Editor:
Minnesota cities are committed to good wastewater treatment. That’s a huge cost for cities and one we take very seriously. Here are a couple of facts about sulfate in water.
1. There are bodies of water with much higher sulfate levels and wild rice is growing just fine.
2. Drinking water standard for sulfates is 250 ppm; this means it is safe to drink at the level.
3. The state of Minnesota is the only state with a sulfate standard at all, and it is only in waters where there is wild rice.
In 1973, the state of Minnesota adopted a sulfate standard of 10 ppm in all municipal and industrial discharge permits that discharge into bodies of water with wild rice. The standard was adopted using research from the 1940s.


Land exchange needs history lesson

The proposed BWCA land exchange is out for comment and if history is an indicator, don’t expect this version to get very far.

The Forest Service would acquire 30,000 acres of state land in the BWCA in exchange for 984 parcels of federal land totaling approximately 39,074.65 acres scattered throughout Cook, Lake and Saint Louis Counties outside the BWCA.
Already groups like the Friends have come out opposed to any land exchange. They want the feds to buy the state land.

This portion of the project is only the first step in this attempt to right a wrong. There is a total of 83,000 acres of school trust land that was taken into the BWCA where it doesn’t generate a dime for the state’s school trust fund.


Believe it or not, winter’s going fast

When the temperatures were still dropping to 30 degrees below zero last week, it was hard to believe. When you were out shovelling snow for the umpteenth time, it was hard to believe. But it’s true. Winter is going fast.
Our advice is simple: get out and enjoy it while you can. Ely, Minnesota is a winter wonderland. We offer unparalleled access to the great outdoors. Whatever you want to do, we can probably hook you up.
Snowmobiling is a great place to start. Ely sits at the crossroad of the Taconite and Tomahawk snowmobile trails. We can get you to the North Shore or halfway across the state. Plus there are numerous local routes with fantastic scenery and pleasurable riding. Our trails are groomed and ready to ride. Come on up.


Legal wrangling: PEIS, wolves, South Fowl

If you’re keeping score at home, here’s some updates on the legal issues in the area.
Wolves: Back in court.
South Fowl: Out of court. For now.
Here’s a breakdown on what that means.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, Sustainable Ely and one Becky Rom of Ely had been pushing for a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Superior National Forest relating to the possible copper-nickel mining projects.
This was seen as a “stealth” attack on mining and it took some sleuthing to determine Rom was the one pushing for the feds to do a PEIS. That push has come to a sudden halt.
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan told the Mesabi Daily News that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined a PEIS will not be necessary.
Hopefully that puts that end-around play to rest.


Let’s learn from the history of Ely

Ely has had some true characters over the years, including one who came to be known as the Grand Marshal of the BWCA.
John Smrekar was an integral part of the history of the BWCA during the most radical changes over the years.
Back in 1997 Smrekar pointed out the economic damage done by the changes in the rules and laws that govern the million acre area. His point was not to reverse the changes, but to be realistic on what the damages were economically.
His points 18 years ago are still valid today.
In a letter to be read on the Minnesota House floor, Smreak noted, “Official figures from the City of Ely indicate that the 1962 population of Ely was 5,934. It dropped to 3,968 in 1990.”


... a clumsy attempt to distort the facts in order to support his argument

Dear Editor
I write in response to an article written by Steve Piragis of Ely – “A Day of action for BWCA [Boundary Waters Canoe Area] lovers and mining opponents” – that appeared in the Star Tribune on Tuesday, January 27. Mr. Piragis and his wife Nancy own Piragis Northwoods Co. and a canoe outfitting business based in Ely, Minnesota.
Mr. Piragis wrote:
“Not only has the Boundary Waters continued to serve as awe inspiring terrain for our nations citizens, it also has been a large economic driver for the tourism economy of Northeastern Minnesota, one that generates $800 million in revenue and supports more than 18,000 local jobs annually.”
Readers should know that the figures Mr. Piragis cites are based on an Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) report from 2009 that included statistics from the Minnesota Department of Revenue for seven counties including St. Louis, Crow Wing, Itasca, Cook, Lake, Koochiching and Aitkin counties.


... shows median household income 20% higher than the 55792 zip code

Dear Editor:
The “Dill vs. Rom” headline on the February 7 article about the recent Minnesota House Mining Committee hearing should instead have read “Dill vs. Ely.”
Dill’s attack on the legislation that protects the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Dill’s willingness to sell out Ely-area businesses and homeowners to support foreign copper mining companies is a direct assault on the well-being of my home town.
The Ely area supports 33 resorts, lodges, and bed and breakfasts; 23 canoe outfitting businesses; eight motels; five dogsledding adventure businesses; three bait and tackle shops; 13 campgrounds; eight nationally-known outdoor learning centers and camps; three museums; and three seasonal festivals and art fairs that bring visitors and vendors from across the region.


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